Yeah, Valve’s Still Experimenting With Hardware

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Posted by patrickklepek (3398 posts) -

Valve has made no secret it’s playing around with the idea of developing and releasing hardware, and a job listing for an industrial designer on its website prompted new speculation this weekend.

"We're frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we're jumping in," reads the description.

“Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years,” continues the description. “There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.”

Again, this just underscores it remains a subject of interest for Valve. When Gabe Newell spoke to Penny Arcade Report earlier in this year, he made that clear. Rumors of a potential "Steambox" have been floating for a while.

“Well, if we have to sell hardware we will,” said Newell. ”We have no reason to believe we’re any good at it, it’s more we think that we need to continue to have innovation and if the only way to get these kind of projects started is by us going and developing and selling the hardware directly then that’s what we’ll do. It’s definitely not the first thought that crosses our mind; we’d rather hardware people that are good at manufacturing and distributing hardware do that. We think it’s important enough that if that’s what we end up having to do then that’s what we end up having to do.”

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3398 posts) -

Valve has made no secret it’s playing around with the idea of developing and releasing hardware, and a job listing for an industrial designer on its website prompted new speculation this weekend.

"We're frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we're jumping in," reads the description.

“Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years,” continues the description. “There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.”

Again, this just underscores it remains a subject of interest for Valve. When Gabe Newell spoke to Penny Arcade Report earlier in this year, he made that clear. Rumors of a potential "Steambox" have been floating for a while.

“Well, if we have to sell hardware we will,” said Newell. ”We have no reason to believe we’re any good at it, it’s more we think that we need to continue to have innovation and if the only way to get these kind of projects started is by us going and developing and selling the hardware directly then that’s what we’ll do. It’s definitely not the first thought that crosses our mind; we’d rather hardware people that are good at manufacturing and distributing hardware do that. We think it’s important enough that if that’s what we end up having to do then that’s what we end up having to do.”

Staff
#2 Posted by andygazi (98 posts) -

I dont see this happening.

#3 Posted by Ghost_Cat (1379 posts) -

I knew it.

#4 Edited by dragonwizard (28 posts) -

first!

edit: d'oh!

#5 Posted by shodan2020 (658 posts) -

I'd totally be interested in a steambox. :)

#6 Posted by divakchopra (86 posts) -

Valve will be reinventing the wheel it seems

#7 Posted by kmg90 (415 posts) -

Valve making there own console?!

Quest side note: Wow, I had it, "Add First Comment"

Wasn't logged in! GRRR!

#8 Posted by AllThatBacon (511 posts) -

So about that Half-Life 3 thing....

#10 Posted by Praab_NZ (279 posts) -

I wonder if he means systems or parts or both, are they really going to manufacture their own hardware? That seems like a crazy thing for a software company to do.

#11 Posted by Penzilneck (423 posts) -

I read it as "...its 'infernal' creations" and was sad to see myself corrected.

#12 Posted by cruxking (204 posts) -

i dont even really want this to happen, I'm totally happy with steam. Maybe I'm just paranoid but the fucking U-draw half killed THQ, I really wouldn't want to see valve take a huge hit if this doesn't work.

Online
#13 Posted by flashx_454 (48 posts) -

if valve does go ahead and make a gaming device whether its a PC or a console we would finally have a hardware standard that most PC game devs would follow b/c of steam thus making it easier for ppl to get into PC gaming.

#14 Posted by YOUNGLINK (537 posts) -
#15 Posted by capthavic (159 posts) -

Valve I love your game service, but I have long since given up expecting anything else from you. You guys are just a publisher/digital distributor now.

#16 Posted by mercury228 (36 posts) -

I think it could be a good thing for valve to get into the hardware market.  I think Microsoft and Sony are doing a poor job in the video game industry anymore. All they care about is being a multi entertainment box. I like that stuff, but the games should be the focus. I love PC gaming and don't touch my consoles at all anymore, and I do not think I will turn back.

#17 Posted by Grilledcheez (3942 posts) -

They have a really cool position of "stuff sucks, let's try to make it better"...I LIKE IT

#18 Posted by Begilerath (175 posts) -

"Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years"

So they are making a Wii-mote/Wii U Tablet equivalent for the PC..yay?

#19 Edited by Evercaptor (391 posts) -

Gabe Newell pitched:

Guys, I have a vision for a new paradigm in "controlling" the content we interact with on a PC. Utilising a never before seen ANALOG input system to give a fine control and dedicated hardware designed specifically for the task I present to you this awesome, totally original idea.

I like to call it a "controller"

You might like to, too.

This is how I imagine that meeting went.

#20 Posted by JuggaloAcidman (272 posts) -

@flashx_454 Dude, do you even know what your saying? A PC with standardized equipment is called an xbox/ps3. Sure it would make it easier for people... But it would be just another consule then.

#21 Posted by MisterMouse (3539 posts) -

I would be interested to see what they do, and it is always fun to see another competitor enter the field.

#22 Posted by Lazyaza (2165 posts) -

I kind of agree with Gabe about the old keyboard/mouse dealy. It's great for certain genres like an RTS or an RPG but as soon as you require fast button use (fighting game, 3rd person action, racing) it's almost certainly better to have a gamepad so I have to wonder if theirs some middle ground someone might figure out some day. I imagine the device would be modular and configurable as all good pc components are, something like that could seriously revolutionize the entire industry if done right.

#23 Posted by Evercaptor (391 posts) -

@JuggaloAcidman said:

@flashx_454 Dude, do you even know what your saying? A PC with standardized equipment is called an xbox/ps3. Sure it would make it easier for people... But it would be just another consule then.

How much do you spend on a PC? What if buy buying the branded Steam Engine PC for about that price you guarenteed yourself both a fantastic PC and extra-nice games because they were MADE for the system, rather than a guess at what mish-mash of drivers you may or may not have in your infinite permutations of hardware?

That's pretty compelling to me.

#24 Posted by flashx_454 (48 posts) -

@JuggaloAcidman: what i meant was that there would be base hardware standard for pc gaming and of course it would be upgradable

#25 Posted by Quantical (324 posts) -

If they try and make just another tablet to try and compete with the ipad I'll be disappointed.

If they try and make a console to compete with Sony and Microsoft then colour me interested.

#26 Posted by Giantstalker (1514 posts) -

@Evercaptor said:

How much do you spend on a PC? What if buy buying the branded Steam Engine PC for about that price you guarenteed yourself both a fantastic PC and extra-nice games because they were MADE for the system, rather than a guess at what mish-mash of drivers you may or may not have in your infinite permutations of hardware?

That's pretty compelling to me.

Did you just call this hypothetical console the "Steam Engine"

Because that's brilliant

#27 Posted by GERALTITUDE (2862 posts) -

Cool. Sounds good to me. I'd buy a Valve PC/Console.

#28 Posted by SupeRaven (25 posts) -

I would venture that they'll create a "certified" platform (ie: system requirements) that vendors like Dell/Alienware and HP can then meet or beat. The vendors could then have their machines emblazoned with a "Steam 2012 Certified" badge, you know like the "Windows 7 Ready" badges. I don't think we'll see an actual SteamBox from Valve.

I'll also float the idea that with such a certification the vendors can load Valve's Linux distribution with Steam as the core application, at the factory. Thus dual-booting Windows and Linux.

#29 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

The over use of "YEAH," in your article titles to sound edgy and out there is getting pretty annoying.

#30 Posted by Shivoa (606 posts) -

As I look down at my pointing device that uses a high dpi, 500fps camera to difference the reflected patterns of the desk surface illuminated by a mix of laser and LED light to track the movement, paired with 8 buttons and a wheel in a comfortable shell that contains a weight block that can be adjusted to my ideal demands, all sitting on some Teflon glide pads...

I've gotta say the old rubber ball, two button pointing device I used several decades ago doesn't really compare. For gaming I'd say there has been a significant advance in making a dependable and highly accurate device for my right hand.

#31 Posted by zeekthegeek (381 posts) -

I severely doubt that this will be an actual product any time before 2014, and anyone really speculating on what they think it is are probably in the wrong.

#32 Edited by ghoti221 (41 posts) -

I wonder if this is just Steam covering any potential move from Microsoft concerning Windows 8 and the Windows App store, especially if Microsoft completely loses it and the Windows app store becomes the only Microsoft Approved (tm) way to install downloaded Internet software.

It wouldn't be a rational act by Microsoft to do something like that, but, we've already seen tons of companies that have done irrational things. And seeing the amount of money Steam and the Apple app store are raking in must be driving Microsoft crazy, especially since the OS market and business apps don't command the same margins.

BTW Patrick, your writing style is fine. You don't need to hear it from some complete stranger on the Internet, but keep on doing what you're doing.

JGH

#33 Posted by gbrading (1985 posts) -

Valve continue to do anything... ANYTHING except release Half-Life 3.

Yeah, I'm just bitter.

#34 Posted by bybeach (4704 posts) -

I am at a loss as to why Valve would think their hardware better than any others except by spec. I just do not get the vision, since the most demanding games well..demand the best the hardware. What magic wand does Valve wave to make such games more universal for all, though I personally would wish it. Hell I am a pc gamer for the performance, not for holding up a pic of a high performance pc with one hand in the shower...

I'm also a real commie when I want to be, for everybody to have the same good thing, the same hi-spec performance.. it's just not how it seems to work...

#35 Posted by Dtat (1623 posts) -

I really appreciate Gabe Newell's candor in this.

#36 Posted by Popogeejo (601 posts) -

@bybeach: You don't even know what their hardware is yet.

#37 Posted by Pop (2595 posts) -

@patrickklepek in the line "we’d rather hardware people that..." did you mean "we'd rather hire people"?

#38 Posted by thefriend (98 posts) -

They're hiring engineers. Engineers with 6+ years in the field, so I assume they are taking this rather seriously. As a computer engineer myself, I applied. Of course, I don't meet the qualifications YET! One day valve... One day.

#39 Posted by Eurobum (244 posts) -

Obviously selecting and assembling PC parts is not the problem, they need an OS, a graphics API, both of which is property of Microsoft, who happen to have their own console, their own DRM and soon their own windows store.

A "steambox" wouldn't be PC compatible (= backwards compatible) without Microsoft. This is the dilemma, which will make or break steam.

It would be like building a console from scratch, maybe they can port Source engine games and use their UI and E-shop experience, but will it be enough?

#40 Posted by DFSVegas (350 posts) -

It seems like Valve is trying to make me go mad by talking about literally everything else on the planet other than Episode 3. Those diabolical bastards.

Online
#41 Posted by jakob187 (21642 posts) -

People already bitch and complain about DRM (especially always-online DRM) on a regular basis.

Now Steam wants to bring our some form of potential hardware...which will more assuredly end up featuring a Steam-like setup that means all games on the console use...YOU GUESSED IT...ALWAYS-ONLINE DRM?!

No fucking thanks. Steam already ticks me off because of the DRM on it. I only buy from it because it's the only way that I have to buy some of the games that get released.

#42 Posted by buckybit (1455 posts) -

I accept apologies from those of you who didn't agree with me earlier this year. ;)

... but this is still early stage - exploratory and it's still a long way to go. Teaming up with hardware makers in China or Taiwan, or retail sellers (HP, Lenovo, Dell, Alienware) is not the issue. Having the games work with Linux (not Windows) is STILL a big 'if', sadly.

#43 Posted by brandonleedy (74 posts) -

As an industrial designer with only 3 years of experience, I have two comments:

1) I've worked with/for quite a few different types of companies and I can say that hiring one industrial designer is certainly a signal that they're at least interested in hardware. But if they're going to actually produce something, I suspect they'd need a larger team. Now it's possible they want one in-house I.D. guy to help them better communicate with an outside I.D. firm (such as Microsoft did with the 360). But they probably want this first I.D. guy to generate initial concepts (sketches, models, etc) they can use to get a feel for manufacturing, look and feel, etc. before bringing on more people to help develop a real product.

Then again, after reading the Valve Employee Handbook, I was enamored at how different they felt as a company, so they may want only one experienced guy to "Lone Ranger" this product vision into development. Only time will tell.

2) I've never wished I had 3 more years of experience under my belt more than I do right now. Working on a project as potentially awesome as this for a company like Valve would be an immensely cool experience. Like I said, that Employee Handbook made me yearn for more companies like Valve to take Industrial Designers. Believe it or not, the thing that matters most to most designers is work culture, not type of product. I'm not alone in saying that I can be passionate and excited about designing almost anything, but it's the people and culture that make the job great. When I saw that position appear on their job boards a few weeks ago, I was psyched! It at least means that someday I could work for a place with as cool of a culture and product as Valve.

#44 Posted by Stubee (376 posts) -

As a person that started using a PC for gaming fairly recently, im finding mouse and keyboard extremely limiting as well. The mouse is great obviously but using WASD for movement is atrocious. Feels like using an awful dead. If valve could develop some sort of peripheral that allows for a mouse in the right hand and a controller style stick in the other then i would definitely be interested.

#45 Posted by benu302000 (212 posts) -

I, for one, welcome our new overlords. May their knives be ever sharp.

#46 Posted by Evercaptor (391 posts) -

@Giantstalker Valve can feel free to use it. These flashes of brilliance are their own reward!

#47 Posted by Evercaptor (391 posts) -

@Giantstalker Valve may ise it how they wish. But it's not just obvious to me, right?

#48 Posted by UnrulyRuffian (113 posts) -

So the crux of the matter appears to be that currently, Steam's destiny is tied to whatever Microsoft decide to do with their operating system. There hasn't been a really decent alternative to Windows for PC gaming since.. well.. ever. Yes, yes. I know Mac's can play games now, but it's still not the platform of choice.

PC Gaming has been Microsoft's red headed step child since the 360 arrived on the scene. Hardware vendors, specifically those who tailor to the PC gaming market might be interested in developing for a platform other than Windows/DirectX if someone can create enough ground swell to demonstrate that it'd be worth their time. Remember OpenGL? With some love and attention that might provide a viable alternative. As for Operating system, Steam could adopt a flavour of Linux. The reason Linux hasn't made it big for gaming thus far is because the community is so splintered between different distros. If Valve could get people to unite behind a gaming flavoured version of Linux, who knows where they could go with this.

All wild speculation of course, and unlikely to happen anytime soon.

#49 Edited by EDfromRED (126 posts) -

Jesus. I just wish Valve would pool their friggin resources already and put out Half Life ep.3/Half Life 3!

#50 Posted by Hef (1094 posts) -

@Stubee: But then you lose the utility of a keyboard. I find keyboards are fine when playing something like an mmo, fps or rts game. But for anything that involves driving or third person action I tend to use a controller.

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